Politics & Policy

Thrills, spills, &c.

I remember the day after the 1994 elections. I was working with a liberal Democrat — almost a professional liberal Democrat. And he was quite sour, as you can imagine. He sniffed, “Well, Ted Kennedy won in Massachusetts.” The senior senator had faced down a stiff challenge from Mitt Romney. I said, “Yes, a Kennedy won in Massachusetts. Congratulations.”

The Democrats had some wins last night — painful wins, to me. But it was still a big night for the Republicans. Very.

‐After the 2006 and 2008 elections, Republicans were supposed to spend some time in the wilderness — a long time. It turned out, they spent a very, very short time in the wilderness. They were there barely long enough to enjoy some solitude.

‐People were talking about “the death of conservatism.” I think James Carville wrote a book about the Democrats’ coming 40-year reign. You have to be a little cautious, when evaluating American politics. The pendulum can swing back and knock you on your behind.

#ad#‐All my life, Democrats have portrayed the Republicans as a racist party. I imagine they will do this for another hundred years or so. But I think that the charge will wear thinner and thinner. There may well come a time — and soon — when the Republicans have as many “minority” officeholders as the Democrats do.

‐Over and over, the Republicans nominate black candidates, and white liberal Democrats defeat them — as is their right. And then the Democrats say, “Ha, ha: You Republicans have no black officeholders.” In 2006 alone, I think of Lynn Swann in Pennsylvania, Ken Blackwell in Ohio, and Michael Steele in Maryland. They were all beaten by standard white liberals. Fine. But then the Democrats said, “Ha, ha, you have no . . .”

‐What is it about conservative Republican Indian-American governors? It is thrilling, is all I can say.

‐Col. Allen West is a blazing Reagan Republican, black, who won in a very, very white Florida House district. There is much to ponder there: not so much about West as about the American people. For a profile I did of this extraordinary candidate last May, go here.

‐If you don’t know Ron Johnson — the senator-elect from Wisconsin — you will want to know him. He is the personification of the Tea Party candidate: a businessman who rose up and decided to run for office because the country was headed alarmingly downward. For a piece I did on his race with Senator Feingold, go here.

‐I thought Sean Bielat would beat Barney Frank, I really did. And I thought the Republican would beat the governor, Deval Patrick. I was badly wrong on both counts. And I took some ribbing about this, at a little Election Night party I had. “What were you smokin’?” my guests said (savvy politicos all). I could only reply, “Scott Brown played with my mind. After his victory there, I thought Massachusetts was truly different. But it turns out to be pretty much the Massachusetts we have long known.”

‐The wins I was most hoping for, did not come to pass. My three highest wishes were these: Angle over Reid; the return of Bob Ehrlich to the governorship in Maryland; and Carly over Boxer.

Angle is supposed to be dumb, Reid swift (or swifter). I think they had just one debate — one organized debate. I did not see all of it, but I saw excerpts. And I thought that Angle was the more impressive, one’s political preferences quite aside. I thought she outclassed him. Reid, I thought, was barely coherent. I almost felt sorry for him.

Bob Ehrlich is one of the smartest, most interesting, most likable, most appealing politicians in the country. Maryland is simply too Democratic for him. He said he had to be perfect to win in 2002 (which he did). He said he had to be more than perfect to win this year (which, of course, he did not). Those were his exact words to me, when I interviewed him some months ago: “We have to be more than perfect.” In any other state, probably — maybe not Massachusetts! — he’d be governor. I hope the Republicans find a place for him somewhere, sometime. Cabinet?

He might well have an easier time getting elected president than getting elected governor of Maryland. I swear.

I hope the Republicans find a place for Carly Fiorina, too: a big, big talent, an asset to the party nationally. It was extremely hard to do what she tried to do: beat Barbara Boxer in California. She performed valiantly, I believe.

#page#‐How bad does California have to get, before the voters turn from the Democrats? How dire does the state’s economy have to become? Going down the tubes, Californians still know how to do one thing: reach for the Democratic lever. As far as I’m concerned, that’s like grabbing an anvil when you’re drowning.

And as the Republicans vote with their feet, California will become “bluer,” I’m afraid. Businessmen, entrepreneurs — they’ve been hightailing it to Nevada, Texas, Arizona, North Carolina. They will probably hightail it further, seeking a state that will allow them to flourish.

‐Boehner was once finished, or at least demoted — kicked out of the GOP leadership. And now he has come back . . . to be Speaker. An amazing story. Moreover, he is from very humble roots, and here he is: Speaker of the House. He believes that he has lived the American Dream, and he is not to be contradicted. I don’t blame him for choking up.

#ad#‐Back when I was covering Lynn Swann, in 2006, a major Pennsylvania Republican told me something. He said, “I don’t see how any conservative can win statewide now. The state has simply become too Democratic. The Philadelphia suburbs are absolutely deadly.” Now, in 2010, Pat Toomey has won. He is a true-blue Reagan conservative. Republicans have captured the governorship, too. (I’m afraid I know nothing about the winner, but I will soon.) Very, very interesting.

‐Above, I said, “I was covering Lynn Swann.” I meant as a reporter, of course. On the football field, I would have no chance. I’m not sure I could “cover” Ed Rendell.

‐About the Palin endorsements: I think she endorsed people she genuinely wanted to win. I don’t think that’s so bad, so damnable. Sometimes, there is too much calculation in politics. Sometimes it’s good to say, “You know? I think this is the person who ought to hold the office.”

‐Dan Quayle’s son has won his congressional race in Arizona. The dynastic element in American politics is amazing: Sons are always following their fathers into politics. Of course, sons tend to follow fathers whatever the field: blacksmithing, doctoring, writing, football coaching, lawyering . . .

In a way, it’s remarkable that Ben Quayle wanted to enter politics, after seeing his father brutalized. I’m very glad for the Quayles. And I admire Dan Quayle quite a lot.

‐I SO wanted the wrestling lady to win in Connecticut! And didn’t she school that Blumenthal, in that debate? About job creation? I thought so. Blumenthal is the epitome, I’m afraid, of the oily politician. He is straight from Central Casting. And yet, he appealed. And he lied about Vietnam! That is a serious no-no in American politics. I guess not, however . . .

‐Great, great. Another Cuomo as governor of New York. All the rotten policies without the pretty oratory. Maybe it’s better without the pretty oratory.

‐I guess Pat Leahy will be in the Senate all of our lives. All of our lives.

‐Kind of amazing that Ike Skelton lost in Missouri, after all these years. The last of the hawkish Democrats, or one of them. Now it’s all Leahys and Boxers . . .

‐Daniel Inouye has been in the Senate more than all of my life — literally.

‐What will Nancy Pelosi do, for the next two years? Be just an ordinary congresswoman? Hard to be that, once you’ve been Speaker. Very. And how will Barney Frank feel without a gavel? I’m not sure we much care . . .

‐I guess I am finally resigned to our political color scheme: Republicans red, Democrats blue. I still think it’s bassackwards, however.

‐You know who is mainly responsible for the Republican rout last night? Barack Obama and the Democratic party. This is not nearly as much the Republicans’ doing as the Democrats’.



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